Friday, April 15, 2011

A Violinist in the Subway

Early on one cold morning in January 2007, world-famous violinist Joshua Bell took his violin and prepared to play the most challenging venue of his life: a subway station in Washington, D.C. Would anyone recognize a truly accomplished virtuoso...or would he go unnoticed by a culture so forgetful of class and true talent?


As a casual appreciator of classical music, this story haunts me. Would I have passed him by? Would I have been able to recognize one of the best musicians alive? Never having learned an instrument and admittedly sometimes dozing off during concerts...I don't know. I don't think I am alone either. True appreciation for classical music has gone by the wayside.


Playing technically challenging pieces on a 3.5 million dollar instrument, Bell played on for about 45 minutes.

 In the end, the professional artist made just over $32. And of the hundreds of people flooding past? Only a small handful stopped briefly for a moment. Only one recognized him.


This story reminds me of a passage from one of my favorite children's books, A Cricket in Times Square. Poor Chester Cricket, who has been living in the New York subway, is about to leave his temporary home and head back to the meadow. As he has recently discovered his gift for imitating classical music with his legs, he gives one final concert for his friends. For that brief moment, everyone in the subway stops. Chester watches as the people begin to sway gently to his cricket song, and it reminds him of the meadow when the long leaves of grass would blow in the wind to the melody as he would play his music. Their busy lives slow down, and they hear the music.

Read The Washington Post article here

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